How to buy the best strimmer
By Adele Dyer
Electric, cordless or petrol? Cutting lawn edges or meadows? This expert guide will help you pick out the best strimmer for you.
Finding the right strimmer will make tidying up the garden a breeze, but buying the wrong one will bring frustrating battles with breaking line and under-powered or over-powered cutting for the jobs you want to do.
Start by thinking about the size of your garden and the jobs you need your strimmer to do. Do you want to tidy up lawn and path edges and those annoying little scraps of grass that the mower can't reach? Or are you after a strimmer that can cut down areas of long grass and weeds that are too much for the mower to manage?
In each case you need to be looking at different kinds of strimmers. If you are looking for a strimmer to cut down long grass and weeds, you need one with a long shaft and a powerful engine. However, this won't have the delicate touch needed for garden use, such as neatly cutting lawn edges. In this case, look for one with a shorter shaft and a range of features designed to make it easier to use.
Take a look at our Best Buy strimmers to discover the models that Which? recommends.
How much do I need to spend?
The kind of strimmer you choose, electric, cordless or petrol, will decide how much you need to spend.
The cheapest are electric strimmers that you plug into the mains. These can be bought for as little as £20, but in our tests we've found that buying a very cheap strimmer is often a false economy. You can get a Best Buy electric strimmer for around £50, so you don't need to spend much more to get a decent model.
Cordless strimmers are more expensive as you pay for the convenience of not having a power cord. The cheapest Best Buy model is around £80. However, for a more powerful strimmer with a longer-lasting battery you can expect to pay over £130. The most expensive cordless strimmer we've reviewed is one that works in much the same way as a petrol strimmer and costs around £500, including the battery and charger.
Manufacturers often have one or two standard batteries and chargers that can be used with a wide range of tools. Before you buy check to see if any of your existing tools has a battery and charger that can be used with the tool you are planning to purchase as this could save you a considerable amount of money.
As some people may already own a compatible battery and charger, these are sometimes not included in the price quoted for your tool, so check the small print before you buy.
Alternatively, you may see it as a good chance to buy a second battery for your tools. Batteries are sometimes cheaper when bought with a tool, and it’s often useful to have a second one charged and ready to go when you’re carrying out jobs that will take some time to finish.
Petrol strimmers cost more than either cordless or electric models, with the cheapest models starting at around £120. Here it's worth paying a bit more for a top-scoring brand. Look at our Best Buy strimmers to choose the right one for you.
Lines, blades and line feed systems
All strimmers cut using either plastic, string-like line or small plastic blades. These are rotated at great speed by the strimmer head, cutting grass and weed stems, and pushing the debris to one side like a scythe.
Line is held on a spool within the strimmer head, and fed out by one of three different systems:
- Bump feed - where the strimmer is banged on the ground
- Automatic feed - where more line is fed out when the strimmer starts
- Manual feed - where the user stops the strimmer and pulls out more line
Bump feed puts you in control of feeding out more line, which you will need to do frequently when cutting tough weeds. You will need to remember to feed out more line regularly to prevent it being cut too short and disappearing back inside the head. This can also be a problem with automatic lines, so remember to stop and start regularly, which is a simple press of a button on an electric or cordless strimmer.
Most strimmers have a double line, meaning two lines come out of the head. This lets you cut faster than a single line, but threading the line on the spool is slightly trickier until you get the hang of it. Thicker line can be used for tougher jobs, such as strimming bramble patches.
Bladed strimmers avoid all the problems of line-feed systems, but they can break easily on hard surfaces, such as fences and garden furniture, so you need to factor this into the overall cost of owning the strimmer.
A guard around the back of the strimmer head protects the user's feet from being caught with the line or debris, and also cuts the line to the right length as it is fed out.
Strimmers for light garden tasks
If you want a strimmer to cut lawn and path edges, along fences and hedges and any little patches of grass, there are a few features that will help you to get a neat finish.
For lawn and path edges, look for a strimmer with a rotating head. This lets you cut vertically without having to hold the strimmer at an awkward angle. Some strimmers also have a wheel that will take the weight of the strimmer and make it easier to push it forward at an even height as you cut a lawn or path edge. A few models also let you alter the angle of the head as you cut horizontally, which is useful for reaching under garden furniture or low hanging branches.
The strimmer shaft should be telescopic so you can find the perfect working position. When cutting lawn edges with the strimmer head turned vertically, it is good to be able to alter the length of the shaft so you can control the strimmer well and see where you're cutting.
Finally, look for handles that can be moved along the shaft and to different angles so you can hold the strimmer comfortably.
Strimmers for long grass and weeds
If the main job you want to tackle with your strimmer is cutting long grass and weeds, then you will need one that has been designed a little differently. These strimmers still use line from a spinning head, but they are generally much more powerful and the shaft will be around 40cm longer than on strimmers meant for light garden tasks. This means the head is at a safe distance away from your feet so you're less likely to hurt yourself.
Larger models have 'bike' handles, which let you hold the strimmer with arms held away from your sides, letting you swing the strimmer in a wide arc. This is a comfortable position if you are going to be strimming a large area and will be working for several hours at a time.
Other models have loop handles that give the user a choice of working positions, depending on whether they are sweeping from side to side or pushing the strimmer around obstacles.
Now find the perfect strimmer for you by checking out our full strimmer reviews.